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Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016: Results and Kona Qualification

Ironman Hefei 70.3 is the first of two new races held in China. I don’t analyse many 70.3 events, but Ironman is offering 100 Kona slots to competitors at these races. Hefei has received 50 of these slots which puts it ahead of the majority of full distance Ironman events as a qualifier. To give some context to this analysis I’ve included data from two other half distance races I’ve examined: Weymouth 70.3 and Staffordshire 70.3.

Distribution of Finisher Splits at Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016
Distribution of Finisher Splits at Ironman 70.3 Weymouth 2016
Distribution of Finisher Splits at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016

Hefei had a much slower swim followed by a much faster bike than either of the UK races. That difference on the bike is enough to ensure that it comes out faster overall too. Neither Staffordshire or Weymouth 70.3 are considered particularly fast (or slow) courses, so this suggest Hefei falls just on the faster side of the spectrum. Interestingly, in its overall distribution, Hefei has a double peak, one around the top 5% and the other around the median. That’s not something I’ve seen in a results set before.

I’ve previously talked about a separation between those competing for Kona slots and the middle of the pack at Ironman. Although the data isn’t conclusive, there’s a definite sense that while the front of pack is as fast as ever (or faster), the middle to back of pack is slowing. As Ironman grows, more athletes sign up to complete the event growing the middle to back of pack at a faster rate than the front. My suspicion is that in Hefei we see this distinction more clearly, a peak for those athletes competing for the slots and then a slight dip before we peak for those middle and back of pack athletes.

DNS and DNF Rates at selected 2016 Ironman 70.3
Listed Athletes Swim Finish Swim DNS/DNF Bike Finish Bike DNF Run Finish Run DNF Overall DNS/DNF
Hefei 1272 1226 3.6% 1215 0.9% 1191 2% 6.4%
Staffordshire 2331 1878 19.4% 1853 1.3% 1828 1.3% 21.5%
Weymouth 1765 1404 20.5% 1394 0.7% 1345 3.5% 23.8%

Comparing the DNF rates across these races shows little difference once we allow for DNS. The data from China looks to exclude DNS (else it was unusually low) compared with that from either UK race. Focussing just on bike and run, while each race varies they don’t differ by much.

Median Splits by Age Group at Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016
Median Split by Age Group at Ironman 70.3 Weymouth 2016
Median Split by Age Group at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016

Comparing the median splits across age groups at this race, generally Hefei comes out faster than the others. The biggest difference, as it was in the distributions, comes on the bike where Hefei is clearly the fastest course. The swim in Hefei trends slower while the run is largely comparable across the events.

Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016 Predicted Kona Qualifiers by Country
Country Percentage of Slots Percentage of Field
Australia 18.0 3.5
Germany 18.0 4.7
New Zealand 8.0 0.8
United States 8.0 5.3
Japan 6.0 4.3
Taiwan 4.0 2.6
France 4.0 2.0
Korea 4.0 1.6
Spain 4.0 1.2
Russia 4.0 0.9
Netherlands 2.0 0.2
Singapore 2.0 0.9
Argentinia 2.0 0.2
Unknown 2.0 0.5
Italy 2.0 1.0
Indonesia 2.0 0.2
Hong Kong 2.0 1.5
Croatia 2.0 0.1
Denmark 2.0 0.2
Ireland 2.0 0.3
Costa Rica 2.0 0.2

A wide range of countries automatically (before allowing for roll down) picked up Kona slots in Hefei. Perhaps more notable is the apparent absence of China in the list (although one finisher’s country wasn’t named). This would fit with the idea that a lot of Kona hunters travelled there with the aim of winning a slot.

Top 10 Nationalities at Ironman Hefei 70.3
Count Percentage
China 772 60.7
United States 68 5.3
Germany 60 4.7
Japan 55 4.3
Australia 44 3.5
Taiwan 33 2.6
France 25 2
Korea 20 1.6
Hong Kong 19 1.5
United Kingdom 15 1.2

China was the most numerous nationality, but almost 40% of the field came from abroad – again this supports the idea of Kona hunters travelling to China in the hope of an easier shot. The next race has 40 slots to offer, plus an additional 10 for those who raced at both, it’ll be interesting to see how many do the double.

Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016 Predicted Kona Qualification Times
  Slots Winner Average Kona Qualifier Final Qualifier
M18-24 2 4:31:43 4:32:55 4:34:07
M25-29 3 4:17:32 4:25:29 4:29:35
M30-34 5 4:08:52 4:16:00 4:18:49
M35-39 6 4:08:23 4:14:31 4:20:41
M40-44 6 4:13:55 4:19:37 4:24:12
M45-49 5 4:23:37 4:25:29 4:28:10
M50-54 3 4:27:50 4:30:22 4:32:44
M55-59 2 4:43:29 4:43:56 4:44:23
M60-64 1 4:53:52 4:53:52 4:53:52
M65-69 1 5:31:45 5:31:45 5:31:45
M70-74 1 6:21:36 6:21:36 6:21:36
M75-79 1 6:57:29 6:57:29 6:57:29
F18-24 1 4:31:22 4:31:22 4:31:22
F25-29 1 4:39:53 4:39:53 4:39:53
F30-34 2 4:33:45 4:43:29 4:53:14
F35-39 2 4:49:39 4:53:27 4:57:15
F40-44 2 4:57:35 4:58:14 4:58:54
F45-49 2 5:07:00 5:10:52 5:14:44
F50-54 1 4:55:54 4:55:54 4:55:54
F55-59 1 5:17:32 5:17:32 5:17:32
F60-64 1 5:17:28 5:17:28 5:17:28
F65-69 1 6:53:50 6:53:50 6:53:50

I’ve estimated the slot allocation for Hefei, actually numbers will have varied with start numbers. Based on this allocation I’ve calculated the automatic qualifying times assuming no roll down. These can’t really be compared with any of the other data I have on qualification, a 70.3 would always be faster than an Ironman.

Top Twenty Male Performances and Kona Qualification by Age Group at Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016
Top Twenty Female Performances and Kona Qualification by Age Group at Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016

For many of the top twenty age groupers there’s a steep step up in performance as we approach the top placings. You can often see relatively large jumps in finish time as you move into the top 5. There doesn’t appear to be the weight of front of pack athletes seen at many other races. So, again we see a handful of athlete pushing for slots at the front with a rapid fall off towards the middle of the pack.

You can access a spreadsheet of the full results and splits from Ironman Hefei 70.3 2016 on my Google Drive.

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